As the label’s boss, it’s hardly surprising that Taylor Deupree’s music sounds like a distilled version of everything that 12k stands for, acting as a kind of limit to which the label’s other releases always appear to be tending. Perhaps Taylor Deupree is to the world of ambient electronica in 2012 what Allen Ginsberg was to beat literature, both as the artist setting the creative agenda and as the catalyst coaxing others into motion. Since 2007 12k has been carefully demarking the domain of this legacy – somewhere a little too arty to be called ambient, too warm and outward-looking to sit comfortably in the drone and experimental camp.
Faint is Deupree’s first full length solo release since 2010’s Shoals, and follows a similar format, split into a handful of long tracks, each of which introduces and builds upon a single theme with remarkable patience. One element that has always been present in Deupree’s work is the influence of glitch music – indeed earlier in his career this was a genre he could be happily placed within at times, even releasing an album on Raster Noton – and in his more recent, more texturally-inclined releases this tends to make its presence felt in the form of clicks and bleeps in the foreground, falling into pseudo-rhythmic patterns and imbuing it with the characteristic choppy quality that is so hard to place. But Faint differs from his previous music in this regard. Echoes of the clicks and cuts days seem to have faded almost completely, and replacing them is a preoccupation with melody.
And at times this results in something truly breathtaking: in the first track Negative Snow a simple sine wave tone jams around a vaguely jazzy theme, structured enough to lull you into a daze but sounding sufficiently improvised to never get boring, striking a near-perfect balance with the rustling underneath. In fact the opener is so beautiful that the rest of the album has a hard time following it, and I’m bemused as to why it was ordered in this way. It’s not until Shutter that we return to the sort of level reached on Negative Snow; there are some points in Faint – particularly Thaw and the final track Sundown – where it becomes so stripped back that it seems as if some crucial element is missing, and I find myself struggling to stay engaged. Given that these two tracks are the longest, comprising nearly half of the total hour or so, I’m left with mixed emotions about the album as a whole, despite its stunning high points.
One thing that is constant throughout is the sheer quality of Deupree’s production. This can be best heard on Dream Of Stairs, the track with the most in common with his previous releases: a shifting milieu of synthesizers and found sound all melting into each other without loss of identity, the top-end shimmering and twinkling and brimming over. This is the thing that puts (and always has put) Taylor Deupree’s music at the cutting edge of the area it occupies, and if it weren’t for a couple of – in my opinion – rather thin tracks, Faint would without doubt be one of the year’s top releases. That said, the good tracks really are fantastic, and I’d almost recommend buying it just for Negative Snow.
- Negative Snow
- Dreams Of Stairs